The poet, printmaker, and painter William Blake combined his literary and graphic skills in four provocative and disturbing images devoted to the Great Red Dragon. For this series—produced for his most faithful patron Thomas Butts, a government clerk—Blake drew on chapters 12 and 13 of the Book of Revelations, an apocalyptic text akin to the artist's own prophetic writings.
In this narrative the Dragon, identified with Satan, schemes to seize the soon-to-be born Redeemer from his mother. Derived from the Virgin Mary of the Gospels, the figure known as the Woman Clothed with the Sun also stands for Israel and for the Church. Blake's threatening Dragon displays powerful musculature as well as its monstrous tail, wings, and horned heads. Subsequent scenes reveal the failure of the Dragon's plan but the emergence of new threats to mankind.
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William Blake (British, 1757-1827). The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun (Rev. 12: 1-4), ca. 1803-1805. Black ink and watercolor over traces of graphite and incised lines, Image: 17 3/16 x 13 11/16 in. (43.7 x 34.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of William Augustus White, 15.368
Gift of William Augustus White
Image: 17 3/16 x 13 11/16 in. (43.7 x 34.8 cm); Sheet (with inlay): 21 11/16 x 17 1/16 in. (55.1 x 43.3 cm)